Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Why Multi-tasking is Bad for You

We say it all the time.  'Women are such great multi-taskers.'  The other thing we also always say is that 'Men can't multi-task!!'  And usually this statement is accompanied by us women tearing our hair out and thinking they are useless.  However, with my efforts to slow down the pace of my life, I have realised that perhaps the men are right on this one and that it is us...the crazy, stressed out, worried, over-busy women folk who need to stop trying to do EVERYTHING at once and instead just focus properly on one thing at a time. 

Somewhere in my collection of old photos is a shot of me, multi-tasking in a really weird way.  I'm busy getting dressed, so in actual fact I'm 'half-dressed' or 'half-naked'...depending on whether you're a glass half full or half empty kind of gal....and I'm loading the washing machine with dirty laundry, while brushing my teeth and for some reason I'm standing in the empty washing basket.  No idea why, I just am.

I've been multi-tasking for years, and praising myself for it.  Silently patting myself on the back every time I think "Wow...I'm managing to do so much today...and all at once!"  Society doesn't help either because everyone talks about how women are such great multi-taskers and that if you're not, well...are we as women supposed to feel like a failure??  Of course, with all the multitude of things going on in my day by the evening I'm exhausted, and I still have a pile of things to do and I really don't feel like I've achieved anything.  I just feel tired, slightly fuzzy in the head from having to think about several things at once while doing five other things at the same time, and sometimes a little grumpy at my husband who is obviously very happy....engaged in a single solitary task, with plenty of focus and not a care in the world!
Another example is the way I tidy up the house, and by tidy up I mean wade through the mess the kids have made that day, and try and herd it all back into some sort of organised chaos.  Usually I start with the lounge room.  I start picking up toys, and random socks that have been flung off all over the room, and various books and DVDs and spoons and banana peels and always about a dozen Matchbox cars that my son has brought out of his room and forgotten are in his hands, and so has just dropped...before going and getting more.  While I'm doing this I'll pick up something, like the spoon, so I will take this over to the sink....then I'll discover a sink full of dirty dishes, so I will get distracted from the lounge room mess and start to pack the dishwasher.....however AS USUAL this is full of clean dishes which need to be un-packed first....so then I need to put those all away........and then I will start to clear the kitchen bench and find something that belongs in my bedroom....then the next thing I know I'm down in my room trying to find a spot for the 'THING' that shouldn't be on the bench but should instead be in my room...and then I realise that I'm an enormous slob because it's half past four in the afternoon and I STILL haven't made my bed.....and so it goes.  Finally, after making the bed, I will head back down to the lounge room and go....yep...that's right...the mess that I started to tackle over an hour ago that is still lying all over the lounge room floor.  Grrrr!!

See...nothing is really getting done, and what is happening is that I'm getting frustrated because the mess seems bigger than it actually is, it seems never ending and by chopping and changing between tasks I'm not really achieving anything.

So this is my new conclusion.  Multi-tasking is BAD for you.  How can you possibly focus properly on one task when you are thinking about several others, or thinking about what you should be doing next?  How can you do something properly if you are doing two other things at the same time?  Instead of having one job done you will have three completed, but they will be three 'half-arse' jobs instead of a one really well finished task.  How can you enjoy sitting down to a well deserved cup of tea and that magazine you have been waiting weeks to find a 'spare moment' to read if you are thinking about the pile of laundry that needs to be folded?  You're certainly not going to enjoy the magazine because you'll be feeling guilty the whole time that you should be tackling that washing.

I've been reading a book called "What Would Audrey Do?" by Pamela Keogh on Audrey Hepburn, and naturally it looks at how stylish Audrey was and what she would do in certain situations.  Her take on multi-tasking was simple.  Don't.  Apparently she always focused on what she was doing at the time before moving on to the next thing, which helped her accomplish a lot more.

"When she reads she reads; when she fits she fits; when she talks clothes she talks clothes; when she sits under a drier she simply sits and dries." - Cosmopolitan

"She is the only actress I've ever had who doesn't gab, read, knit, wriggle, pick her teeth or eat a lettuce and tomato sandwich," - her hairdresser
So as a further step to simplify my life I am putting a halt to multi-tasking, and although I could NEVER be like Audrey, (she is just on another level of perfection all together) it is nice to aspire to try and think like Audrey and be more focused and dedicated to every single task, rather than doing things by halves and feeling like I'm rushing through everything.  It gets back to enjoying the journey rather than always reaching out to the outcome.  I'm finding I've been practising this single-minded focus while I have been sewing, although I will have to stop on semi-regular occasions when various children ask me to get them drinks or snacks or when I have to break up an argument (!)...but it is a starting point and has made me realise it can be done.  I have also noted that I feel a lot more satisfied with the results and have a real sense of achievement when I have completed something to the best of my ability.
 
Yes, I agree with the picture above...multi-tasking IS highly overrated and it's time we learnt to stop! 
 
Do you think you could stop multi-tasking?  Even as a busy mum? 


12 comments:

  1. Like is their anything Audrey Hepburn did that wasn't amazing? I have to admit that we don't make our bed. There, I said it. And honestly your post kind of inspires me to feel less guilty about it. I'd say our apartment is presentable. We take car of things and try very hard to pick up as we go. Every night I'm putting away a mountain of toys and finding books in every nook and cranny. I can't imagine doing that with a bunch of little ones. haha But one day that will be me. (; So here's my goal of the day, less multitasking and more focusing on getting one thing done at a time.

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    1. Oh...I know. Isn't the clean up after children never ending?! It's like turning our back on the ocean..just don't do it!!!

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  2. Hahahah your depiction of the way you clean is so comical because I can completely relate. I do understand how frustrating it is, and I can't imagine having kids to keep messing it up when I turn my back, LOL. I have no right to complain, but I can only imagine....!
    I think my brain must work differently than yours (and since the drive to multi-task is everywhere, it must be different from most other women) because I never intend to multi-task. I am usually really good about focusing on "the task at hand" and then crossing it off my to-do list.
    The way I "find myself" multi-tasking (again, without thinking!) is when I set off to do the dishes and end up folding all of the laundry. I jump around like that because I think I must have some attention deficit on whatever small scale. I will however, jump and finish that task to the very end. So I guess that's where I'm different. LOL. Hoping that made sense.
    I've never really known much about Audrey Hepburn, just that she has lineage in Holland and that when I was younger thought that that meant we were related in some distant way, HA. I like the way Audrey dresses with classic pieces in a minimalistic way.. That's the other thing I know about her! I'll have to look more into WHO she was, not just WHAT she wore or did....!!

    Much LOVE!

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    1. Ah, you're a 'task-completer'! Awesome, I need to take some lessons. Yes, Audrey Hepburn was originally from Europe somewhere and survived the 2nd World War and used to teach all the other children ballet or some such story. Pretty interesting. Yes, and total style icon.

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    1. It's such a hard habit to get out of! I'm finding I still do it a bit despite trying hard not to. Must be a 'mum' thing as well as a 'woman' thing too.

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  4. I am very guilty of multi tasking behavior.. on a Monday it's all I do. I wish we could have a slower paced life sometimes.

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    1. I guess Monday would be a big busy 'catch up' day. I hope Tuesday is a lot less busy for you!

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  5. Love all of these old school pictures! And yes I'm such a multi-tasker, but it's nice to take a minute to breathe every now and then!

    Chelsea
    Chow Down USA: Glasses Giveaway!

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    1. Hi Chelsea, thank you for dropping by, haven't 'seen' you for a while, must pop back over to your blog! Yes, it is nice to stop and smell the roses for a while!

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  6. Excellent post! I agree, we may be good at multitasking but better focus on one thing. Quality not quantity!!! :)

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    1. Thank you Caramella! Totally, quality not quantity! What an excellent statement! I shall remember that.

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